A huge asteroid, as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge, will skim past Earth in March this year, said NASA. Even though there is no reason to panic, it will be the biggest and speediest space rock to fly by Earth in 2021.
The asteroid, officially called 231937 (2001 FO32), is around 0.5 to 1 mile in diameter. It is expected to come within 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) of Earth on March 21 at around 11:03 am EST (1603 GMT).
The gap between the space rock and Earth is enough to call the asteroid "potentially hazardous," as per the database published by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The Near-Earth Object
As per NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), small space rocks pass between Earth and the moon several times a month and their fragments enter, as well as break up in Earth's atmosphere almost every day.
But the asteroid 231937 is the largest space rock to come this close to the Earth in 2021. The sky-gazers should be able to witness the astronomical phenomena through an eight-inch aperture telescope soon after the sunset on March 21 by looking slightly above the southern horizon.
This particular asteroid was first identified in 2001 using an array of telescopes in New Mexico that are part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program—an MIT project funded by the US Air Force and the American space agency.
Since the discovery of the asteroid, scientists have calculated its orbit and found how close the space rock would get to Earth when it whizzes by at almost 77,000 mph.
However, NASA keeps a close eye on all the "Near Earth Asteroids" to determine whether any of those space rocks could become a threat to our planet. The US space agency is now studying all the methods and tactics which would help to deflect a threatening asteroid that can end up on a collision course with Earth.
The methods include the usage of gravity of a flying spacecraft that would slowly pull an asteroid off the trajectory to a safe distance, explained NASA's PDCO.